There is an ever increasing trend in the video game market, which if established could cause a bigger problem than any outcome of Schwarzenegger vs. EMA ever could. You may not have noticed it, you may not have given it any thought, but the threat is there and left unchecked could change the face of the video games market forever. This may sound like the rambling’s of a doomsday prophet who wanders around town wearing a sandwich board and proclaiming “the end is nigh” but I beg and I plead, please read the entire article before making any rash judgements.
In recent games there has been an emergence of day one DLC. To clarify I don’t mean pre-order DLC bonuses which itself in an annoyance, but the increase in online game passes.
The implementation of game passes is still in its early stages and most developers are still experimenting with the format. The most common form at the moment are the numerous one use codes that come free with “new” games that unlock content for the new buyer and penalise those who buy second hand. I have no concerns with this in theory and I applaud the idea of rewarding the early adopters and the dedicated who buy games on day one.
As an example, Dragon Age Origins included a code for “The Stone Prisoner” which added an extra character to your party. My own personal experience was that there was some confusion about whether or not that there was a code included with all copies or if it was only the collectors edition etc. On hindsight the confusion was due to a lack of understanding at a store level and not due to any issues with Bioware. I wonder how many other people were in a similar position and how many people actually paid for the content.
Bioware tried a similar approach with Mass Effect 2 with the Cerberus network card which again offered additional content for new copies. Sadly I found that it was somewhat lacking as several major DLC additions including new characters were not included and even minor additions like alternative attire or weapons were not included and had to be purchased at full price. It was a valiant effort but it could have been so much more. These online passes need to be treated like a store loyalty card and continue to reward loyalty to the brand. This leads us to THQ and the crux of the matter.
Online Axxess includes multiplayer on Xbox Live, WWE Community Creations, and free additional content including WWE Superstar Chris Masters, Kelly Kelly Devil attire, and Rey Mysterio Day of the Dead attire.
There is nothing too controversial here, a new game is supplied with a free pass that grants access to additional user generated content as well as allowing access to the online infrastructure needed to support uploads and downloads.
Whereas the secondary pass Fan Axxess is NOT included with your initial purchase price
Fan Axxess is premium content for the ultimate WWE fan. With its purchase you get the All Unlockables and WWE Superstar Attribute Customizer store items and a special customizable Xbox LIVE Leaderboard Fan Axxess badge. Fan Axxess is also a discounted pre-payment for all future WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2011 downloadable content.
This is a double edged sword, I support the idea of discounted DLC as it promotes the idea of brand loyalty but this type of promotion should be included with all new copies of a game. The concept of paying for a game and then being asked to pay again on day one is wrong to me. This is where the danger lies; this is what needs to be stopped. There should be no premium day one DLC. We have already paid for the game once and for lack of a better term we “own” the content on the disk. We should not be asked to pay a second time. Think of a book, would it be acceptable for a book to be sold with a chapter in the middle either missing or encoded in such a way that you can only get the full experience if you pay a premium?
Day one premium DLC needs to be stopped before it is established as an acceptable practice, while I enjoy and have enjoyed THQ’s WWE games for years I hope that this pass is a commercial failure as it would set a dangerous precedent for the future.
On a side note – The other downloads currently available with this pass essentially breaks the game. By allowing an instant unlock of all the hidden wrestlers and modification of superstar stats. This allows Kelly Kelly to be turned into superwomen while making Big Show as powerful as an asthmatic ant. If you only play with friends or play online then I can see some merit to being able to unlock all the wrestlers at a touch of a button but in general paying to unlock content is like paying someone to play and complete a game, it’s a waste of money and spoils the overall experience. If you want someone to play a game for you please give me a call I will happily take your money and play your game.
Details on Online and Fan Axxess passes from xbox.com